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PoliCon
10-25-2010, 09:30 PM
Some States Suggest Cutting Their Statehouses Down to One Legislative Body

By KEITH JOHNSON

WASHINGTON — A handful of state lawmakers are hoping to answer the rising call for smaller government by slicing their statehouses in half.

In Maine, members of the state's House of Representatives passed a bill last year that would shrink the legislature to one chamber from two. A Pennsylvania legislator introduced a bill this year to do the same. The speaker of the House in Kentucky also floated the idea. Over the past year, officials in half a dozen other states have discussed attacking the size of government by cutting the size of the legislature. The current election campaigns across the country have further fired the debate.

"It's about getting a better form of government for 2010," says Linda Valentino, a Democrat in Maine's House of Representatives. Ms. Valentino pushed the measure last year before it died in the state Senate. She plans to try again.

The debate over unicameralism is gathering steam because state governments are strapped for cash. The recent recession cracked many budgets, and the continuing sluggish recovery is taxing others. Modern-day proponents of unicameral legislatures tend to be Democrats. But the movement began with Nebraska Sen. George Norris, a Republican, who barnstormed the state to drum up support for his idea in 1934.

Ms. Valentino, like everybody else pitching the idea, looks to Nebraska for inspiration—the only state in the country that has a single-chamber statehouse.

At the height of the Depression, Nebraska decided to save money by getting rid of its second legislative chamber. It worked. When the unicameral legislature debuted in 1937, with each representative called a senator, the body cost half as much to run as the old one. And there is less duplication and overlap.

CONTINUED (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303339504575565822588590464.html?m od=ITP_pageone_1)